High blood pressure in teens can lead to serious health issues later

Childhood obesity seen as main cause of heart disease in teens and even younger kids, including high blood pressure

About 1 in 7 U.S. teens have high blood pressure or elevated blood pressure  – conditions that often have no symptoms and can lead to serious heart issues as they grow into young adults.

Obesity is more common among teens with high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teens with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, or even with milder elevated blood pressure, can take steps to lower their blood pressure with physical activity and healthy eating choices.

“High blood pressure and high cholesterol are conditions we see in children that many families assume won’t turn up until later in life,” said Amy E. DiPietro, M.D., a preventive cardiologist at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine “Preventing or treating these conditions at a young age can help prevent heart failure, heart attacks and other life-threatening conditions from striking in young adulthood or later.”

According to Dr. DiPietro, parents can model the healthy lifestyle they want for their children. Planning physical activities as a family, setting a healthy example by exercising yourself and including the kids in the activities you enjoy can help children get engaged in staying active.

Plan healthy meals together, grocery shop together and cook together to start good eating habits that will last into adulthood, according to Dr. DiPietro.

Blood pressure measures the force the pumping blood places on the walls of blood vessels. If the pressure is high, the heart has to pump harder, and the arteries carrying freshly oxygenated blood out to the body are under greater strain.

High blood pressure can damage the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.

Blood pressure naturally goes up when the heart squeezes blood out to the body and comes down as the heart muscle relaxes.

When a health care provider measures blood pressure, the inflatable cuff squeezes a large artery, momentarily stopping blood flow. Air slowly is let out of the cuff, and the flow resumes, registering a result. The heart’s pumping pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. The resting pressure between beats is the bottom number.

Preventing high blood pressure in teens

The team at Norton Children’s Heart Institute practices preventive cardiology to help more children and families live heart-healthy lifestyles. Talk to a member of the team.

Call (502) 629-2929

Most of the time, high blood pressure in teens or others doesn’t cause symptoms. In rare cases, severe high blood pressure can cause headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, nosebleeds, a fluttering or racing heartbeat and nausea.

Anyone with high blood pressure who experiences these symptoms needs medical care right away.

A single reading showing high blood pressure isn’t enough to diagnose hypertension. Diagnosing the condition can involve multiple checks over days or weeks and may include urine and blood tests.

Recommendations of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet

Eat This Cut back on this
Vegetables Fatty meats
Whole grains Full-fat dairy
Fat-free or low-fat dairy
Fish Sugar-sweetened beverages
Beans, nuts and seeds Sweets
Vegetable oils Sodium intake
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute